Friday, 25 May 2012

Sparking up

Did you know that smokers are poor Maori?

At least that is what a couple of the country’s reporters would have you believe after this year’s budget was revealed.
Yesterday was budget day and true to all of the predictions Bill English announced a zero budget.

It has clearly been signalled that the Government want New Zealand to be smoke-free by 2025 so it wasn’t a surprise that the budget included plans to raise the level of taxes on cigarettes
However what was surprising, and also disheartening, was the reaction from some of the country’s television reporters.

In a show of incredible ignorance Barry Soper of Prime News stated during an interview with English that the Government’s plans to increase the tax on cigarettes by 10 per cent every year for the next four years would affect people that could least afford it because smokers are low-income earners.
And then there was the interview with Hone Harawira in which he asked about affect the price rise would have on his constituency because all of his constituents are Maori and Maori are smokers. I didn’t catch the interview myself but my brother-in-law was outraged.

In his opinion the reporter may as well have said that Maori were all smoking dole-bludgers who were destined to end up in jail because that is the level of bigotry the comment showed.

Ok, so smoking is a habit that is prevalent in Maori and low-socio economic areas but that doesn’t mean that all smokers are poor Maori or that all Maori are smokers. I mean to make rash generalisations that smokers are poor Maori is, well, just ignorant and bigoted.

I gave up smoking when I was pregnant with my son, took it up again when I became a reporter and then gave it up again last week. It is a filthy disgusting habit but at the end of the day it comes down to personal choice.
And there are many, of all races and income-brackets, that make the choice to spark up – it isn’t just Maori or the poor.  

The fact that some of the country’s reporters can be so bigoted is disturbing. I once thought that those in the media were meant to be open-minded and fair but I am fast seeing that there is a lot of prejudice out there and I am starting to wonder if we still live in the 1950s.


  1. I was listening to the beacon of public braodcasting, Radio NZ National, after the budget and, if memory serves me correct, it said that 45 per cent of Maori smoke. Does that sound right? I'm not sure what percentage of other ethnicities smoke, but if you had to generalise on such a figure you'd have to say most Maori don't smoke. Anyway, I thought you were going to get into the putting-up-the-price-of-smokes and crime issue. I was speaking with a Waikato policeman recently and he said there has been a plague of holdups at dairies and gasies for fags. I wonder if the prohibition mission and price rises will create more problems than it solves. What's your take?

    1. Hey Matt, not sure about the figures but yes if that is the case then it would be wrong to say the majority of Maori smoke. Also one of the current affair shows had a story about a robbery at a Te Rapa dairy, so I guess your policeman was indeed right. My understanding is that smokes are the easiest commodity to get rid of for a bit of coin.

  2. Tena koe e Karla. You asked if we still live in the 1950s. We still do but racism and bigotry in the 1950s was different because it was hiddn in a way. Newspapers didn't report it. There was no TV and there were no outspoken MPs or a race relations conciliator. Newspapers and radio wouldn't have reported it. Those were the days when we had "the best race relations in the world" because pakeha said so, and no one would have listened to Maori. As a child of the 50s I saw it. Try giving your kids Maori names in the 70s. Even some Maori questioned it. Try bringing your kids up speaking Maori in the 70s, even now. "How will they get a job. When are you going to start teaching them english?" Then there's getting someone with an english name to ring the real estate for a rental. Try dealing with a bank over the phone if you have a Maori name or if you are ringing about a Marae Trust account. Try being the only one in the tea room who has a different opinion to the rest when the discussion is about Treaty settlements or Te Reo Maori funding, or immersion education, or Tino Rangatiratanga. Oh yes! It's alive and well today just as it was in the 50s. Just a whole lot more obvious than it was 50 years ago. The exposure will help us beat it down. Mauriora tatou katoa